Poison Safety 101 – Summer Tips for San Antonio Families

A collaboration with the South Texas Poison Center, UT Health San Antonio

Summer is officially here and with everyone hanging out at home more, we could all use a good refresher on how to keep our kiddos safe from common household and backyard dangers – think cleaning agents, critters, bites, and plants. As a parent who tends to way over stress the small stuff, it’s nice to know we have a free, reliable resource to empower ourselves with knowledge about all things poison control.

The South Texas Poison Center (STPC), which is housed in UT Health San Antonio’s Department of Emergency Medicine, works around the clock – yes, they have a 24-hour hotline! – to reduce the incidence and severity of poisonings with education programs, prevention, and treatment information to patients and healthcare providers. The center is staffed with nurses, pharmacists, and physicians who are all specialists in poison information and work directly under the system’s medical director. That means anytime you call their 24-hour hotline (1-800-222-1222) you’re guaranteed to speak to a licensed professional you can trust.

Knowledge is power. And, the more we can educate ourselves about common hazards at home, the more at ease we can be while wrangling the kids all summer long. STPC’s website is full of fantastic finds on preventative measures and tips, but for an overview of household and outdoor basics, we interviewed STPC’s community outreach coordinator, Mikaela R. Perez, B.S., CHW to share an overview of common concerns from parents across South Texas. Here’s what you need to know:

Soaps & Hand Sanitizers

Now more than ever, we’re constantly keeping our hands soaped and sanitized to prevent virus passing. Wash your children’s hands with soap and water – that’s the most effective way to keep clean. If you do need to use hand sanitizer, supervise children while they use it. Consuming the product is dangerous because the alcohol percentage is high and tolerance in kids is low. In extreme cases, consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning. Key takeaway: Keep hand sanitizer in a high place or somewhere the kids can’t reach it. Use as you see fit, but never leave them unsupervised with a bottle of it.

Detergent & Cleaning Supplies

Again, many of us are cleaning our households more aggressively to minimize exposure to germs – and, that’s okay! Regarding detergent, tri-pods pose double danger – they’re poisonous and a choking hazard. Keep them locked in a drawer if they’re below the sink. As for cleaning products, keep them up and away from kids. Also, never mix products you’re unsure about, as certain combinations can produce dangerous results. Generally, never mix bleach + vinegar; bleach and ammonia; bleach + rubbing alcohol; and hydrogen peroxide + vinegar. Key takeaway: Always lock-up cleaning supplies – or keep them on the top shelf – and supervise children when supplies are out.

Medicine & Vitamins

We all know not to mess with medicine; however, if you accidentally give your child the wrong dose, call the hotline. Professionals can talk you through managing the situation at home and can calculate the severity of the situation. Also, keep vitamins out of reach – especially those that look like gummy candies. Specifically, the use of melatonin is on the rise, and while it helps get kids to sleep sooner, it can pose a risk if too large a dose is consumed – e.g. half the bottle. Key takeaway: Keep tempting looking medicines and vitamins in locked drawers, and if an incident arises, call the hotline for action steps.

Common Critter Bites

Spiders, bees, and scorpions, oh my! And, jellyfish, too. During the summer months, the hotline receives an increase in calls regarding critter bites. Most bites result in minor pain, skin irritation and localized swelling which can all be treated with at-home care; however, always call the hotline for peace of mind or advice on how to treat anything more serious. If you travel to the coast, beware of jellyfish. If your child is stung, keep them calm as best as possible while washing the wound – try creating a calming paste with baking soda and water. Or, meat tenderizer does the trick, too! Key takeaway: Bites are inevitable while playing outdoors. If your child gets a bite that needs attention, keep them calm, try the basics first, then call the hotline if additional care is required.

Sunscreen & Insect Repellents

Lathering our kids in sunscreen and big spray becomes routine as the warmer weather rolls in. While they both work to keep kids protected from the sun and bug bites, they can also pose health problems if not used properly. As a general rule, keep sunscreen away from kids – consuming it can be harmful. Also, avoid applying near the eyes and mouth. For babies, keep it off their hands as they tend to put everything in their mouths. For repellents, do the same – test on a small area of skin on the arm or leg before applying on larger areas of exposed skin. Never use it on cuts, as it will sting. And, avoid spraying it too close to a child’s eyes and mouth. Key takeaway: These products protect us, but they can also cause skin irritation and pose dangerous side effects if inhaled or consumed. Keep these products away from kids’ hands and use as directed. 

Outdoor Plants & Flowers

Plants are tricky – and describing them over the phone can be even trickier. That said, educate yourself about the common plants and flowers in your front and backyard. If you can, research what you have and label them with common names so they can be more easily identified should your child brush up against one or consume its leaves. Generally, remember, “leaves of three, let them be.” If your child has a reaction – itchy, red rash with bumps – don’t scratch. Alleviate with lukewarm baths and apply a cool compress and calamine lotion. If a plant is consumed, try to remove remaining pieces from a child’s mouth, then flush with water. Bottom line: Know what’s in your yard – or, call the hotline to help you identify the good versus bad options.

Biggest takeaway: Accidents happen. Keep the STBC’s number on hand and visible for easy access to on-call doctors and pharmacists in case an incident arises. Or, just call to learn more about how to keep your kiddos safe! Dial (1-800-222-1222) any time of day.

A native Laredoan and San Antonian by choice, Kimberly loves all things sunshine and South Texas. A communications consultant by day and digital creator by night, she is a master juggler of all things family, friends, work and fun! Kimberly is married to her high school sweetheart, A.J., and together they chase their two spirited boys, Trey (2016) and Matthew (2019), around town. Most mornings you can find Kimberly sipping piping hot coffee on her back patio (trying to hide from the chaos that awaits inside!). Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: Landa Library Park Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Los Spurs